Skeletons. Who doesn’t have them? Got more than my share. One of them, though, one of them has a stranglehold on me. And wouldn’t you know it, the bastard is a friend of mine. Saved my skin a time or three. And I’m not talking figuratively. So am I going to let him hang himself and be able to live with myself? Not a chance.
I’m standing outside the Palanquin, a real dive of a bar, getting ready to save Hymie’s skinny ass, when a tall cool drink of Columbia gets out of a town car across the street. Pretty Boy Floyd. Number one knuckle buster this side of the Pacific.
Damn. Too much to hope it’s a coincidence. Even bigger stretch to hope that he hasn’t seen me. After all, I’m six feet of hip-length scarlet hair and full body tattoos that cover more skin than the brief dress I’m poured into. Most I can hope for is to put him off until after I get business handled.
Best laid plans and all that go down the sewer when Pretty Boy follows me around back, calling my name like a choir boy singing psalms on Sunday morning. But I got a heart like Saturday night vodka on the rocks. My stilettos keep clicking, down the dark alley, into the back door, and up alongside the beat-to-damnation bar.
Eye on the prize, baby. And there he is, Hymie Santos, the slickest grifter in the states. He don’t look the part. Don’t look like much of nothing, but he’s the king of thieves and everybody wants to sit on his two-bit throne, wear his sixty-three dollar shoes and big brass ring.
Everybody but me. I just want to settle my debt and get out of dodge. Wouldn’t mind getting paid and laid before my head hits the pillow tonight, but regardless, I’m gonna sleep like the dead tonight. Clear conscience will do that for you. Or so I hear. Not that I have trouble sleeping. I know who I am. I accept what I do. You gotta own up to it when you choose to live in the grey. Regrets? I don’t have a one.
About the time Pretty Boy closes on me, I see Dante break from the shadows and make his move on Hymie. This is the part where the situation goes sideways at the speed of ‘oh shit’ so I kiss my chances with Pretty Boy goodbye and give myself over to the Judicial Ink. Their voices wriggle through my mind, slurred like weekday drunks and skittish as newborn colts, and then they tear off me, taking skin and color with them.
See, I don’t judge nobody. I leave that to the Judge, Jury, and Executioner. And there they go, locked onto Dante like wolves on winter-weak prey. I don’t feel sorry for him. Everybody has to pay their dues sometime. Me, I have to pay up every time the Court Matron beckons. It’s that or serve my time. Found out after the fact that hosting the Judicial Ink isn’t much of an upside except for the odd occasion when they do me an off-the-record favor, like tonight.
So there I am, propped up on a barstool, trying to maintain as much dignity as I can while temporarily missing skin and dribbling blood, and wondering whether Pretty Boy is still there. Figure he’d have split by now or be doubled up puking down his linen suit but when I glance back at him and see how he’s staring at me, it don’t take a sideshow palm reader to see we’re about to collide in a cataclysmic way.
Skeletons. Who doesn’t have them? Got more than my share. One of them, though, one of them has my heart by the ventricles. And wouldn’t you know it, the scoundrel is a pal of mine. Saved my pride a time or ten. And I’m not talking metaphorically. So am I going to let him sleep alone and be able to live with myself? Not in this phantasmagoric life.